Adeiny Hechavarria: 'In Cuba they are seeing what Cuban players are doing here'

From ESPN - August 12, 2017

This interview was conducted in Spanish and has been translated.

Adeiny Hechavarria starred in Cuba as a teen before defecting in 2009 by sailing to Mexico with 11 others. After signing an initial four-year deal with the Toronto Blue Jays in April 2010, the slick-fielding shortstop made his major league debut for the Jays in 2012. After that season, he was traded to the Miami Marlins in a 12-player deal, earning his first Opening Day start for Miami in 2013 and playing as the Marlins' everyday shortstop for more than four seasons before being dealt to the Tampa Bay Rays earlier this season. ESPN's Marly Rivera caught up with Hechavarria to talk about his response to the growing number of Cubans in the major leagues, the difficulty with playing in the states while there's political turbulence at home and whether the Marlins can start to draw more fans in Miami.

Why did the team wear t-shirts with the Venezuelan flag during batting practice?
I got to the clubhouse and saw that there was one of these shirts in every locker. I know everything that is happening in Venezuela. And yes, I am wearing it to support my Venezuelan friends, both here and on other teams. We understand what they are going through. I understand it more than anyone; as Cubans, we know what it is like to go through that. I think it's also so they can see that we support them.

Is it hard to focus on baseball when that kind of turmoil is happening back home? What advice would you give Venezuelan players on how to deal with it?
It is really difficult, very difficult... It's very difficult when you are going through something very personal, like it happened to me with my dad in Cuba. It was no game. He was taken prisoner many times for trying to leave Cuba; it's a very stressful thing. I was 20 when that happened; my mind was not as strong as it is now. But the one thing I can say to them is that you have to stay strong mentally and have a lot of patience. I think that's what they can do. What I can tell them is to have a lot of patience because it's so hard. I went through that, it's so hard, just so difficult to explain. I understand perfectly the pain they are going through because I went through that.

What does it mean for Cuba to see this increase in Cuban baseball players in the major leagues, as we have seen especially with the White Sox and the Mariners?
There's a TV channel in Cuba where they do not really broadcast games, but sometimes they show quick info and they talk about some of the Cuban players [here]. When I call Cuba, they are always talking to me about it. It makes me so happy because now in Cuba they are seeing what Cuban players are doing here. That is a very positive thing. Every year, another Cuban comes to the major leagues. That's really good.

With Yonder Alonso, Seattle now has four Cuban players on their 25-man roster. How is it for so many of you to be together now, especially since many of you have known each other since you were kids?
It's something amazing and at the same time exciting. I played in the Pan-American Youth Games with (Jos) Iglesias, with (Dayn) Viciedo, and they also came here to the major leagues. It's exciting to see each other and have a chance to say 'You remember when we were in Cuba when we did this and that, and now look -- we are here!' We talk about those things sometimes. It's great. I am really glad Seattle did that -- there are a lot of Cubans there and I think it's very good.

After all that you and your family went through to get here, when you look back do you think it was all worth it?
Yes, of course it was worth it. My dad was caught 13, 14 times (by the police) trying to get out of Cuba. It was very stressful. Good thing I was playing Double-A when that happened. But I could not play well. It was incredibly hard; really stressful. Now I can say that it was worth it. My dad is here with me. We are happy. He has already gone back to Cuba and was able to come back. So think so, yes it was worth it.


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